BOSTON — For ShoreTel executives here Nov. 28, the game between the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Nets was a no-lose affair.
On one side were the Celtics, who this year took advantage of their decision to renovate and expand their corporate headquarters in the city to install an on-premises unified communications (UC) solution from ShoreTel, a move that Jay Wessel, vice president of technology for the NBA team, had been contemplating for as long as five years.
On the other side were the Nets, who saw a move of their headquarters from New Jersey to Brooklyn earlier this year as an opportunity to deploy a cloud-based UC system from ShoreTel, which Mireille Viau Verna, senior director of IT for the team, said helped keep the organization’s communications up and running during Superstorm Sandy in October.
The game also gave ShoreTel officials the chance to tout their decision in February to buy M5 Networks for $146 million, which enabled the company to offer cloud-based solutions to complement its premises-based products.
“It’s at events like this that whoever wins, ShoreTel wins,” Peter Blackmore, the company’s CEO and president, said to a group of journalists just before the game began here at the TD Garden.
There is growing interest in cloud-based UC solutions, Blackmore told eWEEK. He said that currently, about 20 percent of UC deployments leverage the cloud, with the other 80 percent being on-premises solutions. However, by 2015, the percentage of cloud solutions will grow to 42 percent, and will only continue to climb. That fueled ShoreTel’s interest in being able to offer a cloud-based solution, and it made more sense to buy a company with those capabilities than to try to develop it in-house, Blackmore said.
ShoreTel looked at a host of companies, eventually whittling the list down to M5, a 12-year-old company based in New York City that Blackmore said had the right combination of solutions and a corporate culture that made it a good fit.
Dan Hoffman, the former CEO of M5 and now president and general manager of ShoreTel’s cloud division—ShoreTel Sky—said the merger enabled him to take his two-dozen or so engineers and combine them with the more than 200 that ShoreTel already had. In addition, it gives the combined company the kind of dual expertise in on-premises and cloud-based solutions that differentiates ShoreTel from its competitors.
ShoreTel in Win-Win Situation With Celtics-Nets Game
The acquisition also means that the merged company can now address a wider market, Hoffman said. Smaller organizations, which don’t want to spend a lot of hardware and don’t always have the IT expertise to take care of hardware infrastructures, tend to lean toward cloud-based systems. ShoreTel Sky’s target customer base has tended to be in the midmarket, between 50 and 5,000 seats. However, “we’re starting to see interest in the enterprise,” he said, adding that the company has two projects that could tally more than 10,000 seats each.
Andrew Borg, an analyst with the Aberdeen Group, said the purchase benefited both companies. ShoreTel was able to quickly ramp up its cloud capabilities, while M5 gained the kind of global reach that it could not have achieved on its own.
“It was a smart move for both companies,” Borg told eWEEK. “It was one of those acquisitions that make sense.”
He said businesses are rapidly moving to an IP cloud infrastructure as they look for greater flexibility and scalability that such a dynamic environment can offer. If a business has a single cloud-based IP infrastructure, their ability to respond to market demands—to quickly “pivot” their strategies to address customer needs—is significantly enhanced, Borg said. Organizations now are starting to look at UC and the cloud in the same way, though it will take time for the momentum to gain speed.
“I’m hearing an accelerated level of interest and a low level of adoption,” he said. “We’re still at the start of the market.”
The Celtics’ Wessel said he has wanted to deploy a ShoreTel UC infrastructure for several years, but wanted an on-premises solution. Communications is mission-critical for the organization, and he wanted a system in-house that he could touch if he had to. He likes being able to remotely manage the team’s ShoreTel system, but said he feels more comfortable knowing he has direct access to the infrastructure. “I’m a hardware guy,” he told journalists.
However, Wessel—who replaced a legacy Avaya system with the ShoreTel solution—said that UC in the cloud was only going to gain in popularity, and that eventually, he could envision leveraging the cloud for such tasks as disaster recovery. “I think long-term, cloud-based systems make a lot of sense,” he said.
ShoreTel in Win-Win Situation With Celtics-Nets Game
The Net’s Viau Verna said the NBA organization had been looking to make the move from New Jersey into Brooklyn for a while. When the final decision to move was made, the company had to get things set up very quickly. Viau Verna, who contacted M5 before the ShoreTel merger, said the fact that—unlike the Celtics’ Wessel—she was dealing with a greenfield situation, where she was moving into a new building rather than trying to deal with an existing structure, made it easier for her to make the move to a cloud environment.
“We needed something that was very simple, that we didn’t have to futz with,” she told journalists, noting that the small size of her staff was another consideration. “It was the quickness [in the deployment] of the cloud system that convinced us to go with the cloud.”
It took about two weeks to lay the lines that were needed for the UC system, Viau Verna told eWEEK. After that, it was only a matter of hours from the time the ShoreTel Sky equipment was received before the cloud was up and running.
The robustness of the system was tested several months later, when Superstorm Sandy hit New York City and New Jersey. While communications at the Nets’ New Jersey site—where the team practices—were brought down, the telephones for the Brooklyn facility continued to run, despite reports of widespread outages in the region, including a ShoreTel Sky backup site.
“[The] Brooklyn [Nets’ facility] was intact,” Viau Verna said. “Brooklyn was fine.”
For the record, Brooklyn was fine during the game as well, as the Nets beat up on the Celtics, 95-83.